Douglas County teachers get tech lesson at ‘Geek Camp’

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Kids always seem to be on the cutting edge of technology. The Douglas County School District is making sure its teachers aren’t left behind.

The number of technological advancements in the classroom over the last decade is astounding. The advent of interactive class lessons and online homework assignments has teachers receiving continuing education on the latest gadgets and apps being incorporated into the classroom.

An annual “Geek Camp” run by the Douglas County School District equips teachers with the tools and know-how needed to guide the next generation into the future. Brandon Petersen, a technology teacher at Sand Creek Elementary School in Highlands Ranch, says in many cases, it’s best for teachers to “let the kids take control of their own learning,” which he admits is a “huge flip” in conventional thinking.

During times when teachers are fumbling with a new device, “the kids say, ‘hand it over,’” he says.

Petersen is among those who collaborate with instructors in the classroom. He has become “Mr. Technology,” trouble-shooting when needed at Sand Creek. But the idea behind Geek Camp is to help teachers become self-sufficient when new technologies are introduced.

This summer’s Geek Camp, a series of lessons July 8-12 at Challenge to Excellence Charter School in Parker, enabled teachers to explore a “digital playground,” a room brimming with devices of all makes and models. They also followed guided practices and “campfire” sessions, small group discussions that allow teachers to share what they already know with each other.

“They’re in here using learning-environment language,” said Kim McMonagle, the school district’s director of educational technology.

The teachers are encouraged to share what they have learned on the “mountaintop,” or private forums specifically designed for them to teach others, creating an exponential learning experience for those involved, she said.

McMonagle keeps up on the constantly changing world of classroom technologies through conferences and monthly group gatherings with education professionals from throughout Colorado.

Petersen says when he started with the DCSD less than 10 years ago, teachers and students followed an unofficial “bring your own device” rule, or BYOD. These days, there is a push for “one-to-one,” or one electronic device per student.

Sue McTigue, a music teacher at Soaring Hawk Elementary School, led a Geek Camp lesson on how to use technology in a musical setting. She plans to use Edmodo, Smart Boards and White Boards for in-class and at-home learning. For example, students can watch tutorials on how to play a specific song and then use Garage Band software to submit recordings directly to her.

Geek Camp helps teachers earn professional growth incentives and meet re-licensure requirements.

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